INTERVIEW: Jazz-Fusion Drummer & Composer Gregory Hutchinson Talks NYC Roots, Upcoming Album ‘Da Bang’

Gregory Hutchinson, a celebrated jazz-fusion drummer with a rich musical history in 1980s and 90s NYC, is gearing up for the release of his solo debut album, Da Bang, on September 29th.

While rooted in the rich traditions of jazz percussion and R&B sensibilities, the album is a testament to his unparalleled versatility, dynamic artistry, and boundless imagination. Drawing inspiration from artists like J Dilla, Pete Rock, James Taylor, and more, the album fearlessly ventures into the realms of hip-hop, funk, R&B, and Neo-soul.

In this project, Hutchinson boldly articulates his commitment to breaking down barriers and redefining genres for a new generation, creating a definitive statement that resonates with his vision of a vibrant and boundary-pushing musical future.

His latest single, “New Dawn,” which features Liselotte Östblom, embraces living life on one’s own terms, and does so through a slick percussive and danceable R&B groove. It is one of 15 tracks on the new LP.

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Originally from Brooklyn but now based in Rome, Italy, his upbringing was steeped in a fusion of Trinidadian heritage with a father who played drums, effortlessly inspiring his son along the way. His early exposure to his mother’s soulful vinyl collection and his father’s reggae and calypso bands laid the foundation for his musical journey, which would include touring with acts like Common down the road.

We got to chat with Hutchinson to learn more about his unique upbringing, his musical path thus far, upcoming album, and more.

Can you tell us a bit about your upbringing with a father who was also a drummer? Did he push for you to follow in his footsteps or did you naturally gravitate to it?

Well I was lucky to have two parents that loved music, and the fact that my dad played drums inspired me because I got to see it everyday, but oddly enough he didn’t have to push me. I was already driven at three-years-old. Since my family is from the Caribbean, rhyme was always in play, so I’m glad that he put me on his lap while he practiced one drop.

“Straight from the Heart”

In a monumental time period in the 80s in NYC where hip hop was starting to explode, what defining memories do you have when you were coming of age and getting involved in the music world around you? Any crucial mentors, teachers, etc.?

Well growing up in NYC, I grew up around the corner from Biggie Smalls, but even before that, I would sit up and listen to the Supreme Team on WHBI and all the battles of the dopest MCs at 2 AM. Getting to see Whodini and Kane and Jay-Z while they were in high school as I went to Erasmus Hall High, and we had Special Ed (got it MADE).

I remember all the outside block parties where the DJ hooked up his equipment to the light poles to get the power. It was crazy. At the same time, I was hanging out with great drummers in the jazz world like Art Blakey, Art Taylor, and Elvin Jones, so I was in heaven. And getting to study later with Kenny Washington and Marvin Smitty Smith, well that was incredible.

Your latest single is the effervescent jam, “New Dawn.” What can you tell us about the backstory and inspiration behind this song?

“New Dawn” was Inspired by the simple fact we had been in the middle of the pandemic here in Italy, and had seen so much despair that it was time for an anthem to get us going in our minds. “New Dawn” represents that fresh start we all needed, and it’s one we need to continue to live our lives. Today is a new day, and we as people need to look forward, not backwards.

What made you choose this song as one of the singles to be released compared to the others?

What made me choose this song is also pretty simple. I just wanted to feature all the ladies on the album. I have strong performances from all my friends, so I just wanted to give them some shine. Not to take away from the guys on the album, so this tune like I said stood out because of where we were in life and needed to go.

“New Dawn”

I see it’s coming off of your upcoming debut solo album, Da Bang. Is there a common theme or thread throughout this collection of songs?

The common theme was that I was going through life shit, and just sat down and wrote about what my life was like, and where I needed to get to to be better. And I took my thoughts and made them into songs that are simple, so the theme is LIFE, and what it brings you and how you handle it. Express yourself always.

15 songs is a lot for an album. What made you decide on that number as opposed to maybe scraping a few off to attach to a future album?

Well it’s really not a lot. Some of the songs are skits, and once you start writing, you just go and hope to write a collection that goes together, and I just keep writing, so we will have more for the next one lol. And maybe a few less songs, lol. But maybe more- I guess you just get inspired. 

Do you find determining the order of songs on an extended album like this to be a challenge, and how important is that to you?

You know, it is a challenge because you want to present a picture and not just songs put together, so you have to listen and make sure the listener feels what you feel, and really try to get it right. That is super important to me because today’s generation listens to one song and that’s it, but I want them to play it from start to finish.

Gregory Hutchinson

What has been the most fulfilling part of recording your debut solo album?

The best feeling about doing my first album is simply that I finally did what I set out to do, to document my feelings and soul. I just wish my mom would have been here to see it. But it’s not over- now we gotta grind.

You’ve toured with Common among other milestones in your career. When reflecting back so far, what are one or two pinnacle moments for you as an artist?

I would say say Common was a great experience to be on the road with such a positive brother who’s all about the music. Being on the road with legendary bassist Ray Brown was also a high point. Honestly, if you check my resume it’s all been great, but one moment would be the recording of Joe Henderson’s Lush Life, which made my career jump to the next level.

What might you have in store post-album release? Touring, working on the next album, etc.

Well, I’ll say I’m doing many of these interviews and loving them. It’s a way for people to get to know me and what I’m trying to do, so I appreciate all the love I’m getting, and really in my case, I understand what it means after 34 years in this business.

Gregory Hutchinson // Photo by Red Rebel Agency

Featured photo by Red Rebel Agency

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